With operations against ISIS at a critical stage in northern Iraq, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced Friday that Canada will extend its training mission there by three months.
The Canadian Forces will continue operations until June 30, providing “the time required to assess the evolving nature of the fight.”
Canada is part of a coalition working with Iraqi troops to recapture territory taken over by the Islamist group, also known as Daesh, restore basic government services and enable citizens who fled to return to their homes.
A news release said the scope and mission of Canada’s contribution, often characterized as an “advise and assist” operation, will remain the same this spring, “with a few adjustments.”
“As a result of recent successes in the campaign, some elements of the Canadian Special Operations Task Force have recently been operating in eastern Mosul, providing advice and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces,” it read.
“Canadian troops remain behind the forward line of troops, and are providing advice and assistance to Iraqi Forces,” the government said.
Canadian troops had been stationed around Erbil, where its operations had included a military hospital.
But the fighting in and around Mosul has been intense recently, as the fight to retake control over the strategically important city continues.
“While the geography and partners have expanded, the mandate of training, advising, assisting, and equipping remains unchanged,” a statement from the chief of the defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, said.
“The mission may change further as the situation evolves and Canadians should expect further adjustments as the situation warrants.”
“It is clear that coalition efforts are having a real impact on the ground,” Sajjan said in the release.
The military said Friday that 3,600 personnel have been part of rotations for the mission so far. As of March 28, Canadian aircraft who remained in theatre after Canada’s CF-18s returned home have conducted 695 aerial refuelling sorties and 753 reconnaissance missions.
In addition to the special forces soldiers acting as intelligence officers and training Iraqi soldiers on the ground, Canada has also contributed tactical helicopters to the coalition mission.